The HOLLYWOODBETS COSAFA Women’s Championship will be played in Nelson Mandela Bay this year from August 31-September 11, when the best of the region’s talent will gather in the hope of lifting the prestigious trophy.
The tournament has become a hugely popular fixture on the COSAFA calendar, not least for the quality of the football, but also the entertainment value, with some star names lighting up the competition.
We look back at the leading scorers from the last five editions and how they fared.
2017 – RUTENDO MAKORE (ZIMBABWE) – 10 GOALS
The prolific Zimbabwe forward was top scorer five years ago as Makore reached double figures in the competition, though she could not help her side to the trophy.
She netted four times in her side’s opener against Madagascar, got another in a 1-1 draw with Zambia and then claimed a hat-trick in a 3-3 stalemate with Malawi.
That was enough to see Zimbabwe into the semifinals and Makore was on target again in a 4-0 victory over East African guest nation Kenya.
She made sure she scored in every game with a goal in the final against South Africa, but Zimbabwe lost 2-1.
Makore remains a leading forward today and last played with Black Rhinos Queens. Unfortunately she will not be able to add to her tally this year with Zimbabwe under a FIFA suspension that means they cannot compete in Gqeberha.
2018 – LINDA MOTLHALO (SOUTH AFRICA) – 4 GOALS
Midfielder Motlhalo is not necessarily known for her goals, though her excellent technique lends itself to accuracy in the box.
But she led the way at the 2018 COSAFA Women’s Championship in what was an excellent field with not much to choose between the leading sides.
She scored a hat-trick in a 6-0 win over Malawi in the first round, and got another in the semifinals as Banyana edged Uganda 2-0. That set up a final meeting with Cameroon, where South Africa triumphed 2-1.
Motlhalo has played in the United States, China and now Sweden, where she turns out for top-flight side Djurgardens.
2019 – RACHEAL NACHULA (ZAMBIA) – 10 GOALS
Nachula was on fire for Zambia at the 2019 COSAFA Women’s Championship, setting the tone with eight goals in their opening game as they beat Mauritius 15-0.
She grabbed two more in the semifinals against Botswana as Zambia made the final for the first time, though they eventually lost 1-0 to South Africa.
Nachula remains a leading forward for the national team, though she missed the 2020 Olympic Games with injury and did not feature in the recent Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco, where Zambia finished third and qualified for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The 36-year-old most recently played in Spain with Zaragoza and is a former Olympic sprinter.
2020 – SIBULELE HOLWENI (SOUTH AFRICA) – 8 GOALS
South Africa claimed the title again at the 2020 COSAFA Women’s Championship, though this time without many of their established stars.
But that allowed new names to emerge and one of those was Holweni, who caught the eye with her clinical touch in the box.
After scoring in a 5-0 win over Eswatini, she grabbed five goals in a 7-0 victory over Comoros.
She continued that form in the knockout stages with goals against Malawi and Botswana respectively in the semifinals and final.
2021 – SIBULELE HOLWENI (SOUTH AFRICA) – 5 GOALS
Holweni repeated her feat of winning the Golden Boot, though this time she managed five goals, which is still not bad for a player who now regularly turns out at left-back!
She grabbed a brace in a 3-1 win over Mozambique in the pool stages, before getting another two in the 3-2 semifinal loss to Malawi.
That pitted south Africa in the bronze-medal match against Zambia and Holweni was on target again, though Banyana Banyana ultimately lost on penalties as Holweni missed the vital kick.
Still only 21, she has a long international career ahead of her and will likely be a key player for Banyana again this year.
The former Under-17 national team captain currently plays for the University of Western Cape in the HOLLYWOODBETS Super League in South Africa.